Congressman Led Charge to Keep Security Team at Port of New York/New Jersey
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- U.S. Congressman Frank A. LoBiondo (NJ-02), Ranking Member of the House Coast Guard & Maritime Security Subcommittee, today applauded Congress' approval of H.R. 3619, the "Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Authorization Act of 2010," which rebuffed President Obama's Fiscal Year 2011 budget proposal that called for drastic reductions in port and maritime security.
"This week, Congress ensured port security remains a top priority in securing our homeland, not allowing it to be watered down by the Obama Administration's misguided funding initiatives. If the proposed security cuts had been approved, the Coast Guard's capabilities to patrol and protect the nation's ports and maritime transportation system would have been severely undercut, giving terrorists an opportunity to exploit our weakness. I'm pleased my colleagues joined with me in bipartisan opposition to the Coast Guard cuts proposed by the President," said LoBiondo.
Under President Obama's FY2011 budget proposal, the U.S. Coast Guard would be required to eliminate five (5) maritime safety and security teams (MSST), including the team stationed at the Port of New York/New Jersey, the nation's second largest port. MSSTs are responsible for boarding suspect vessels, conducting anti-terrorism activities, patrolling critical infrastructure, escorting potentially hazardous cargo (i.e. liquid natural gas vessels, liquid propane gas vessels etc), and responding to unanticipated events such as terrorist attacks, natural disasters etc. MSST were created in 2002 under the "Maritime Transportation Security Act", co-authored by LoBiondo, in direct response to the September 11th terrorist attacks.
In addition to the Port of New York/New Jersey, President Obama's proposed budget would have decommissioned MSSTs stationed in: Anchorage, AK; San Francisco, CA; New Orleans, LA; and Kings Bay, GA (a military load/unload port).
In February, LoBiondo learned of the proposed cuts and immediately led the bipartisan effort to restore the funding and personnel for the MSSTs. At that time he blasted; "This is absolutely unacceptable. I will fight to restore these resources to ensure the safety and mission of the men and women of the Coast Guard are not jeopardized. Our shared goal must be to make our country more secure and more safe, not the opposite." LoBiondo's opposition was quickly seconded by House Transportation & Infrastructure Chairman James Oberstar (MN-08) and Coast Guard & Maritime Transportation Subcommittee Chairman Elijah Cummings (MD-07). The subcommittee held a hearing on the proposed budget cuts in February 2010. (Video available on Congressman LoBiondo's YouTube page: www.youtube.com/user/USRepFrankLoBiondo)
Previously approved by the Senate, H.R. 3619 passed the full House on voice vote late Tuesday evening. In addition to preventing the decommissioning of the five (5) MSSTs, the "Coast Guard & Maritime Transportation Authorization Act of 2010" authorizes $10.2 billion in funding for the Coast Guard in fiscal year 2011 and allows for an additional 1,500 personnel to be added to the Service's roster. H.R. 3619 will now go to the President for his signature.